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Critical Service Learning Toolkit

Social Work Strategies for Promoting Healthy Youth Development

Annette Johnson, Cassandra McKay-Jackson, and Giesela Grumbach

Publication Date - 25 January 2018

ISBN: 9780190858728

120 pages
7 x 10 inches

In Stock


Critical Service Learning Toolkit offers a strengths-based, interdisciplinary approach to promoting social competence while enhancing emotional and academic skill development. Designed as a user-friendly guide to carrying out successful CSL projects, this Toolkit provides practitioners with step-by-step assistance in planning, implementing, and evaluating Critical Service Learning (CSL) projects in elementary and high schools. CSL trains youth to become active and conscientious citizens through engagement and leadership experiences that meet real needs in the community. This approach is unique in that it places the youth/student at the center of the process. Prioritizing social and emotional learning (SEL) and school engagement, CSL changes the role of the school-based, counseling professional into that of a facilitator who encourages skill-building, reflection, and civic engagement.

Cultivating self-awareness, social-consciousness, and critical-thinking skills, brainstorming and community web mapping activities serve as the cornerstone of CSL and allow youth to become comfortable articulating concerns about their communities. By extending learning beyond the classroom and into the community, CSL enhances what is taught throughout the school curriculum, at all levels, and fosters a sense of civic responsibility and social agency.


  • Presents the information and tools needed to implement Critical Service Learning in elementary and high schools in an easy-to-follow step-by-step format.
  • Provides hands-on guidance for each phase of a CSL project: development, implementation, evaluation, and completion.
  • Includes background information on theory and research.
  • Shares tips and guidance on getting started and designing one's own project.
  • Features implementation strategies and techniques for successful and sustainable engagement.
  • Includes appendices to provide useful tools for collecting and analyzing outcomes and hands on activities for student/youth engagement & empowerment.

About the Author(s)

Annette Johnson, MSW, MA, is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research focuses on social and emotional learning and critical service learning. Having served as director of social work for Chicago Public schools for fourteen years, Ms. Johnson has a keen interest in developing strength-based practices in schools. She has also trained school social workers and school districts around the nation on the utilization of innovative approaches in school social work practice.

Cassandra McKay-Jackson, PhD, MSSW, is Associate Professor and MSW Program Director at the Erikson Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. McKay-Jackson has worked in the field as a clinical practitioner with youth, adults and families. Dr. McKay-Jackson earned her PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago in the College of Education (Curriculum and Instruction). Her research interests include critical service-learning, youth activism, and its influence on social emotional development.

Giesela Grumbach, PhD, MSW, is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Governors State University. Dr Grumbach's research focuses on social work practice in communities and schools as well as the issues that affect direct practice.


"The Critical Service Learning Toolkit is much, much more than an outstanding, practical, hands-on guide to engaging young people in critical service learning projects. By synthesizing cutting-edge knowledge and research the authors have provided both a theoretical framework and a road-map for advancing the fields of service learning, education, and social work in incredibly important, timely, and relevant ways. Their approach combines the best of what we know about participatory practices that put youth voice at the center of their own development and that engage ALL young people as meaningful partners and agents of change in their own families, schools, and communities. This text represents both a call to action AND a toolkit for action during these turbulent times. As such, it gives not only hope for, but also a practical way into creating a better, more equitable, and more just future." -Stacey S. Horn, University of Illinois at Chicago

This Toolkit offers an innovative, strength-based vision and set of effective educational strategies for at-promise youth. The authors clearly and compellingly share approaches that will guide all practitioners to implement learning opportunities that empower students to be leaders, problem solvers, collaborators, and engaged citizens. Roger P. Weissberg, PhD, UIC/LAS Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Education/NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair in Social and Emotional Learning, University of Illinois at Chicago

Table of Contents


    Chapter 1-Transforming Service Learning to Critical Service Learning
    Chapter 2-The Nuts and Bolts of Critical Service Learning: Theoretical Foundations
    Chapter 3-Essential Elements of Creating Student Voice: An Expanded Framework of Critical Service Learning
    Chapter 4-The Role of the Practitioner
    Chapter 5-Gaining Administrative School and Community Buy-In
    Chapter 6-Critical Service Learning and Group Work
    Chapter 7-Logic Model Development to Aid Project Planning
    Chapter 8-Steps to Developing Critical Service Learning Projects
    Chapter 9-Launching Critical Service Learning
    Chapter 10- Self-Care and Preventing Burnout
    Chapter 11-Future Implications

    A. Logic Model (Samples)
    B. Community and School Web-Map Activity
    C. Evaluation Resources
    D. Ice Breakers and Activities
    E. Example of Evaluation Resources-Pre/Posttest
    F. Resource List


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